Updated 3:15 p.m. July 1
I’m a former newspaper guy who studied literary nonfiction (a.k.a. creative nonfiction) for his graduate degree, a master of fine arts, not a master of arts in literature.
So that’s my disclaimer about these choices.
And please comment with your favorites, however many you have.
Of course, some of these choices come from textbooks I’ve used while teaching, while others come from unrequired reading.
“Babylon Revisited” by F. Scott Fitzgerald — one of my first short-story loves
“May Day” by F. Scott Fitzgerald — a relatively large cast of characters for a funny and devastating story
“Cathedral” by Raymond Carver — the finest secular understanding of spiritual elevation
“A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor — placing the Gospel message in the mouth of a criminal, while showing us the false facade of a Southern woman’s faith
“The Use of Force” by William Carlos Williams — a taut, tight thriller of a short story written by a doctor who also was a leader in poetry’s Imagist movement
“Flight” by John Steinbeck — this vivid pursuit in arid lands has stuck with me for decades, literally
“Accident” by Dave Eggers — a relatively minor car accident becomes a meaningful look into the human condition
“Incarnations of Burned Children” by David Foster Wallace — tight, unflinching, horrific, with a deep symbolic move
“Bigfoot Stole My Wife” by Ron Carlson — a hysterical journey through denial and the basis for belief
“Powder” by Tobias Wolff — redeeming a mess of a Dad in the unlikeliest setting
“The School” by Donald Barthelme — creepy students seep through the oblivious narrator’s perspective
“Elephant Feelings” by John Haskell — an historically based look at an elephant who was executed
“The Schreuderspitze” by Mark Helprin — could a dream be better than an actual achievement?
“Letters from the Samantha” by Mark Helprin — a different kind of albatross
“Frontiers” by John M. Daniel — a 5-year-old on a new adventure, short and perfect (only 101 words)
“My Kinsman, Major Molineux” by Nathaniel Hawthorne — striking images from the pre-Revolutionary era surround a boy’s journey from the country to the city, where he figures out his search for his kinsman is a joke at his expense
“The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe — using kindness and a common interest to exact revenge
“The Purloined Letter” by Edgar Allan Poe — the godfather of the detective story gets started with a case of hiding in plain sight
“The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson — a psychologically astute (and horrific) use of the third-person-objective point of view